4 reasons why the manga industry is interesting right now

Sozoroo Team
Did you know that the manga industry is interesting right now?
It is well known to those in the manga industry that the domestic manga market reached a record high of 612.6 billion yen in 2020.
The golden age of Weekly Shonen Jump (published by Shueisha), was a time when many classic manga such as “SLAM DUNK”, “Dragon Ball”, and “Yu Yu Hakusho” were serialized and are still talked about today. In 1995, when the circulation reached a record high of 6.53 million copies and was registered in the Guinness Book of World Records, it surpassed the 586.4 billion yen of that year, which was still fresh in our memory.
And in 2021, sales reached 675.9 billion yen, an increase more than 10% over the previous year and a record high for two consecutive years. The financial results of publishing companies, especially Shueisha, Kodansha, and KADOKAWA, seem to be doing very well.
In this blog, we would like to list some of the reasons why we recommend working or starting a business in the rapidly growing manga industry. We hope to provide some insights for those who are interested in working or starting a business in this field someday.

Reason 1: Diversification of manga artist styles

Working in the manga industry is not only competitive, but so is working as a manga artist. The only way to make a living as a manga artist was to serialize in commercial magazines. Paper magazines had limited serialization slots due to the number of pages.
The numbers varied depending on the magazine, for example, if 20 works can be serialized per issue, there weren’t \many manga artists who could debut. However, the tide has turned significantly due to the digital shift.
One is that the number of serialization slots has increased significantly due to the launch of web media and apps by publishing companies. Another is that a place has been created where manga can be published on social media without being serialized in commercial magazines. And finally, the number of ways for individuals to sell manga and creative works directly through pixivFANBOX, DLsite, FANZA, Kindle, and Number Nine has increased.
These three changes brought by the digital shift have given them more choices in how they live as professional manga artists. Instead of just choosing between commercial or doujinshi, more and more manga artists are active beyond the boundaries of commercial and doujinshi,making it a very lively industry from our perspective.

Reason 2: Increased participation of inexperienced people in the industry

The diversification of manga artists creates various business opportunities.
When paper publishing was mainstream, the process of creating manga and selling them in bookstores had this structure of “manga artist → publisher → printing company → distributor → bookstore”. It seems that it was not easy for new companies to enter this publishing process, which is said to have continued since the Edo period. Producing and distributing paper books may have been some kind of privilege.
On the other hand, with the current expansion of the digital manga market, it can be said this is an era where individuals can earn money directly. While the traditional publishing system is still alive and well in one way, it is possible to create manga, deliver it to readers, and earn money in ways other than that. Because of the great business opportunities lying there, inexperienced people are coming from outside the manga industry.
The fact that the manga industry is becoming more open due to the digital shift from its closed atmosphere during the paper era may be a major factor. The company Number Nine was also founded by board members with zero industry experience or knowledge, so you could say that the company was born out of this trend.
Those with no experience in the industry are welcome to participate, but we hope that many more people will understand that they are becoming bearers of Japan’s unique manga culture, and approach the creators with love and respect.

Reason 3: The rise of WEBTOON as a new genre

Next is WEBTOON. The excitement around WEBTOON that has been building since last year will be another tailwind for the manga industry, which is updating its record
high market size.
Most people in the manga industry and WEBTOON production studios share the common view that WEBTOON ≠ Manga. In other words, it’s not a simple matter where hits are made by simply utilizing the manga editing techniques developed by existing publishers.
Both publishing companies with decades of history and WEBTOON production studios which sprang up between last year and this year, are competing against one another to create Japan’s first hit WEBTOON.
More new inexperienced people are entering the market because anyone could create their first major hit in this situation. And for startups that always aim for first place, they can’t afford to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Reason 4: Rapid increase in overseas sales in single issues of comics

The fact that overseas print books are selling extremely well is becoming a hot topic among the people in the manga industry.The reasons for the explosive increase in sales are said to be the “nesting demand due to COVID” and the “increase in people watching anime on video streaming services” leading to “watching anime → sudden increase in demand for physical manga”.If this is the case, the expansion of overseas markets in 2022 may become even more exciting than ever before, especially for major publishers such as Shogakukan, Shueisha, Kodansha, and KADOKAWA.The crisis caused by the rapid decline in print book sales was saved by digital comics, and a new genre called WEBTOON emerged while updating record-breaking sales.Furthermore, the expansion of the overseas market demand and not only existing markets but, new possibilities are also gaining momentum at the same time, making us realize the unfathomable potential of manga.

Would you like to work at a startup expanding its business in the manga industry?

The publishing industry used to be a very challenging industry for new graduates to work in. Not only startups but also many major publishers are recruiting mid-career personnels who are strong in working with digital skills. As they are moving from the paper era to the digital era, we feel that there’s a need for young people to create a new era.